In 2008, I was researching a book I wanted to write, Journey to Faith, which I never finished and sits on the stack of BIPs (books in process). During my research, I came across the writing of Lilias Trotter and became so moved by her teaching that I still, eight years later, try to live by her message. because, as a Christian, I know it to be true.
Two years ago I wrote my family history book, Somewhere Over the Rhine. It took four years. While writing that book, I lost my focus time after time. And on those occasions, I dug out my research on Lilias Trotter to help me move ahead. My One Thing at that time was my book. Narrowing my daily life, cutting out anything that took away from my book is how I finished that One Thing.
Who is Lilias Trotter?
Isabella Lilias Trotter was a lover of beauty and of God; this was revealed through her life as an artist, author, and missionary. Born in 1853 to wealthy parents in London, her talent for drawing and painting eventually came to the notice of famed art critic John Ruskin, who was impressed by her talent. However, instead of pursuing a career in art, she felt called to go to Algeria as a missionary. Having been turned down by a mission society, she went independently to the country along with two other single women. Lilias lived in Algeria until her death there in 1928. ~ Who Was Lilias Trottter? ~ by Lynette Woods
I am currently writing another book, This One Thing, as I have been so magnetized by Lilias Trotter and her life that I want to share her teaching to anybody who knows how hard it is to stay on task and focused, and wants to be able to finish that One Thing, maybe a big DREAM. So I've written here a glimpse of Lilias' writing. Would be interested if any readers here find inspiration from Lilias' words.
Excerpts from "A Story and a Song," by Lilias Trotter
Gathered up, focussed lives, intent on one aim - Christ - these are the lives on which God can concentrate blessedness. We see the principle shadowed in the trend of science; the telephone and the wireless in the realm of sound... All these work by gathering into focus currents and waves that, dispersed, cannot serve us. In every branch of learning and workmanship the tendency of these days is to specialize - to take up one point and follow it to the uttermost.
And satan knows well the power of concentration; if a soul is likely to get under the sway of the inspiration, "this one thing I do," he will turn all his energies to bring in side-interests that will shatter the gathering intensity.
It is easy to find out whether our lives are focussed, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day?
And they lie all around, these interests. Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once - art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the "good" hiding the "best" even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness.
What does this focussing mean? Study the matter and you will see that it means two things - gathering in all that can be gathered, and letting the rest drop. The working of any lens - microscope, telescope, camera - will show you this. You have to choose which you will fix your gaze upon and let the other go.
...and the things that, unable to "bide the fire," must be destroyed? All aims, all ambitions, all desires, all pursuits - shall we dare to drop them if they cannot be gathered sharply and clearly into the focus of "this one thing I do?"
Will it not make life narrow, this focussing? In a sense, it will - just as the mountain path grows narrower, for it matters more and more, the higher we go, where we set our feet - but there is always, as it narrows, a wider and wider outlook, and purer, clearer air. Narrow as Christ's life was narrow, this is our aim; narrow as regards self-seeking, broad as the love of God to all around. Is there anything to fear in that?
How do we bring things to a focus in the world of optics? Not by looking at the things to be dropped, but by looking at the one point that is to be brought out.